Senator JV Ejercito has dismissed the denials of apparent rice financer accused for illegal import of rice using the farmers’ cooperatives as dummies. The agriculture committee has cited in contempt of rice trader Judilyne Lim of DGL Commodities Incorporated for “erroneous” answering the queries on her association with illegal rice brokers who used permits of 21 cooperatives for rice smugglers.

The hearing has been renewed from February 24 by Chairperson Cynthia Villar, who is enquiring about the relationships between Lim and Leah Echeveria, the woman identified as the broker who funded to participate in the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) program. As per the 2012 report a lot of traders and financers engaged in the program using farmer’s organizations and cooperatives as a cover.

During the enquiry Lim has admitted acquaintance with Echeveria, as she was the human resource employee for her company until 2012 but denied any association with her on the illegal transactions. But the committee has identified that her company and DGL commodities had offices in the same address in Mandaue, Cebu which has mystified the Sentor. Lim has been ordered to attend next hearing on March 12.

Also in another case, a rice broker, Emmanuel Santos of Jade Brothers Farm and Livestock incorporated has been warned by the committee. Allegedly Santos has imported rice under names of 3 companies- Jade Brothers, Medaglia de Oro trading, and Silent Royalty Marketing without permit from NFA (National Food Authority).

Even though Santos has denied, the committee is investigating the reports on the rice financiers using farmers’ cooperatives as fronts and smuggling rice into the country.

In view of the increased rice smuggling case, the committee has recommended policy reforms. John Philip Sevillia , Commissioner of Bureau of customs (BOC) has stressed on the upgradation of computer systems to detect smuggling as currently the situation is very critical at many locations with internet dead in many places of BOC headquarters. Also it has been suggested that the agency needs to conduct more physical inspections to identify technical smuggling or the undervaluing of goods.

In February, the committee has reported implementation of policy barring the issuance of shipments after arrival of goods by BOC & NFA.

Dr. Prudenciano Gordoncillo, University of Philippines has done a research and recommended that Philippines should adopt practice followed by Singapore and Indonesia of splitting up functions of BOC to other agencies. BOC should only be in charge of revenue generation while other departments should be under Department of Trade & Industry (DTI).

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